Africa Cup of Nations kicks off

After multiple postponements and fears of an outright cancellation, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finally kicks off on Sunday. The TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021 is a major event on the continent and this year’s edition is eagerly awaited following its postponement in 2021 due to the Covid crisis.

The competition, tagged Cameroon 2021 and which will take place from 9 January to 6 February 2022, will be held in six stadiums in five cities across the country. The six stadiums selected to host matches are the Olembe Stadium and Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in the capital Yaoundé, the Japoma Stadium in Douala, the Limbe Stadium in Limbe, the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam and the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua. The opening match of the tournament and the final are set to take place at the newly-built 60,000 seater Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé.

Twenty-four teams will battle for the title at the 33rd edition of the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). That means six groups of four, with the top two qualifying for the last 16 alongside the four best-ranked third-placed sides.

Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia
Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Gabon, Comoros
Group D: Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau
Group E: Algeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea
Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania

After the group stage, the top two teams from each group and the four highest ranked third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16. The round of 16 winners will advance to the quarter-finals and the quarter-final winners will advance to the semi-finals. The semi-final losers will play in a third place match, while the semi-final winners will contest the final.

The dates for the knockout rounds are as follows:

Round of 16: 23-25 January
Quarter-finals: 29-30 January
Semi-finals: 2-3 February
Third-placed play-off: 6 February
Final: 6 February

A host of European leagues’ stars will descend on Cameroon, with the hosts facing Burkina Faso in the opening game on Sunday. Cameroon, Nigeria, Mo Salah’s Egypt, Sadio Mané’s Senegal and Franck Kessié’s Ivory Coast are among the teams vying to unseat title holders Algeria.

The pandemic has obviously had an impact on the tournament, with CAF capping attendances at 60% of capacity for most matches. Games involving hosts Cameroon will be permitted to have 80% capacity, and only those who have been double-vaccinated and have a negative Covid test can attend matches.

The month-long jamboree is being televised across the world. For example, all 52 tournament matches will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK.

Kola Tella

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